Katie Hampson - Fleetwood’s animal artist

Katie Hampson with a selection of her watercolour paintings with mixed media

Katie Hampson with a selection of her watercolour paintings with mixed media - Credit: Archant

Armed with road-kill and a paintbrush, this colourful 20-year-old is one of the county’s most promising - and most unusual - artists, writes Barbara Waite

Artist Katie Hampson

Artist Katie Hampson - Credit: Archant

Most young women of 20 are ardent followers of fashion and fun. Katie Hampson is more likely to be seen dragging a road-kill badger into the boot of her father’s car.

Cow by Katie Hampson

Cow by Katie Hampson - Credit: Archant

For Katie is an unusual woman with an exceptional talent and, fortunately, she’s not the least bit squeamish. The dead beasts that take up room in her mother’s freezer are not part of some ghoulish hobby, but for use as anatomical studies.

Kate, from the coastal town of Fleetwood, has been drawing ever since she was big enough to hold a pencil and now she is one of the region’s most promising young artists. Her work has been sold in galleries across the north west, she has won a national award and one of her works is owned by a member of the Royal Family. She also has a major First World War commission from the British Legion.

And that’s before she completes her university course.

Not only does she have plenty of talent, anyone who has seen one of her highly-popular demonstrations to Lancashire art societies will tell you constant practice means she’s mighty quick on the draw.

But that speed is based on years of anatomical studies drawn from the ethically-sourced bird and animal skeletons which she keeps at home - some in the freezer and others in her studio - as a ready reference.

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Now in her final year at Bolton University, where she is studying animation and illustration, Katie’s understanding of the animal form stems from her early years as a member of Blackpool Zoo Club.

‘Dogs have always been my favourite animals to study and draw. This is probably because since I was six my family has been guide dog puppy walkers,’ said Katie. ‘Following on from dogs, wolves have long been inspirational.

‘I went to a secret wolf sanctuary in the Welsh Borders, and although they were not domesticated, I was able to stroke one. I love observing them at zoos and wildlife parks. I find their gaze mesmerising - it’s like they are staring into your soul.’

Continental holidays with parents Lynne and James inspired her to paint alpine cows and deer. ‘I find them so graceful and their antlers are fascinating. I am very interested in traditional rural German culture and I have several vintage German deer skulls in my collection,’ she said.

That collection also includes a fox, badger, squirrel, rabbits, rats, mice and a robin plus reindeer and deer antlers. ‘I have recently developed a fascination with taxidermy which I am now studying alongside my university work. It started when our golden retriever Hudson discovered a dead fox on the beach at Fleetwood,’ she said.

Katie couldn’t resist. ‘I dragged it back home then skinned and tanned the pelt. Next was a squirrel, then a badger found on the road while I was travelling to an art exhibition. It was loaded into the boot, but my attempt to deal with it was not a great success even after I’d buried it in my Grandma’s garden for a while!’

The taxidermy is more of a hobby which helps her understand the animals’ structure forming the foundation of her paintings. A lot of time is spent on research and preparation and although her paintings are interpretational they must be anatomically accurate.

‘I usually spend up to a week on each painting, but I mostly work on several paintings at once, returning to each with fresh enthusiasm,’ she said. ‘The tutors at Blackpool Sixth Form College realised my individuality and encouraged its development rather than making me conform. I love experimenting and find my mixed media work is always evolving.’

Katie uses an amazing array of watercolours, acrylic gels, pencils, Tipex, marker pens, coffee and gouache, always mixing her colours and layering up to create greater depth. An invaluable tool is a hairdryer used to develop and control drips and dribbles.

After Blackpool she went to Salford University College where she was given a project to study pheasants. ‘I visited a local farm so I could fully understand the nature and character of the birds and decided to use cold colours for the structure and warm for the highlights which developed into the technique I use today.’ It was that picture which won her the Salford University College student prize; earlier in the 2010 she was Blackpool Sixth Form College Artist of the Year.

Her reputation is growing. She has sold paintings through many north west galleries, in national art exhibitions, on-line both nationally and internationally, and she has exhibited twice in the Manchester Buy Art Fair, Windsor Art Fair and most recently in Blackburn Museum and Art gallery.

As well as selling art she has done many private commissions. She said: ‘I often live stream while I work and find it fascinating that people around the world are watching me real time.

‘When I undertake a pet commission I work closely with the owner, developing the individuality of the animal through sketches. I get great pleasure seeing the emotional effect when I finally present the finished artwork, knowing the joy it will bring in years to come.’

Fit for a princess

One of the highlights of Katie’s short career was winning the prestigious Artist magazine prize in 2012 which was presented to her by Princess Michael of Kent, president of the Society of Women Artists, at London’s Mall Gallery.

‘I sold some work, but getting the award was the icing on the cake. During a conversation with Princess Michael I was inspired to paint a corgi for her which she has in her personal collection.’

Continuing the Royal connection she has been commissioned by The Royal British Legion to illustrate the 2015 WW1 Commemorative Calendar. It’s an exciting project and Katie is enjoying undertaking the research to ensure military accuracy in all the images which will cover all branches of the armed forces, civilian life and ,of course, the part animals played in the conflict.

Still on the theme of war, her portrait of a mounted Australian soldier in the Gallipoli campaign hangs proudly in the Australian Embassy in London.

Other works are in the Chinese Embassy as well as in private collections in Europe, Australia and America. Prices start from about £350, but she does sell her demonstration pieces for about £50.

Visit www.outputt.com and www.sketchbuck.com to see more of her work.